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The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]

March 1771

March 1771

1. Light winds and variable all day.

page 245

2. Winds and weather much as yesterday. At night a Bank of Clouds were seen to the Wrd which had very much the appearance of Land.

3. Wind at Sw with dirty foggy weather. In the evening some of the people thought that they saw Land but that opinion was rejected almost without examination, as the journals in the ship which had been kept by the Log were still above a hundred leagues and those which had been corrected by Observations of the sun and moon full 40. The night was cheifiy calms and light breezes with fog and mist.

4. Day broke and shewd us at its earliest dawn how fortunate, we had been in the Calms of last night: what was then supposd to be land provd realy so and not above 5 miles from us, so that another hour would have infallibly have carried us upon it. But fortunate as we might think ourselves to be yet unshipwreckd we were still in extreme, danger, the wind blew right upon the shore and with it a heavy sea ran which broke mountains high on the rocks with which it was every where lind, so that tho some in the ship thought it possible the major part did not hope to be able to get off. Our anchors and cables were accordingly prepard but the sea ran too high to allow us a hope of the Cables holding should we be drove to the Necessity of making use of them, and should we be drove ashore the Breakers gave us as little hope of saving even our lives: at last however after 4 hours spent in the vicissitudes of hope and fear we found that we got gradualy off and before night were out of Danger.1 The land from whence we so narrowly escapd is part of the Terra de Natal, laying between the rivers Sangue and Fourmis2 about 20 Leagues to the southward of the Bay of Natal. The shore seemd every where steep and rocky but the hills inland rose in gradual slopes spotted here and there with woods, and where it was not lookd Green and pleasant.

1 Either Banks made far too much of this peril or Cook made far too little. Cook writes (p. 453), ‘In the evening some people thought they saw the appearence of land to the Northward, but this appear'd so improbable that I who was not on deck at this time was not acquainted with it untill dark when I order'd them to sound but found no ground with 80 fm upon which we concluded that no land was near, but day light in the Morning proved this to be a Mistake by shewing us the land at the Distance of a bout 2 Leagues off. We had now the wind at Se blowing fresh right upon the land. When we made the land we were standing to the westward, but thinking the other the best tack to get off on we wore and hauld off to Eastward and by now had got an offing of a bout 4 Leagues, the land at this time extending from NeBN to WSW’

2 Going on Cook's description and the position he gives, the ship was off Port St Johns, into the Sw part of which the St John or Umzimvubu river discharges. This is south of the present limits of Natal. Banks's rivers Sangue and Fourmis (properly des Fourmis) appear on the French Carte Parliculiere de la Côte d'Afrique depuis le Cap des Courans, jusqu’à la Baye de Ste Helene par Mr d'Aprés de Mannevillette, c. 1755—the former perhaps the Umzinto or Ant river, the latter probably the Umzimkulu.

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5 For this day or two we have thought it rather colder than we should chuse; at noon today the Thermometer in the shade was at 70. Land today in sight and no more.

6. Foul wind and cloudy weather all day.

7. Fair wind accompanied with clear weather. Over the land however, at least in that direction, hung clouds and appearances of rain as indeed was generaly the case. For these some days past the seamen have found the ship to be Drove hither and thither by currents in a manner totaly unacountable to them.

8. Calmish. Many Birds were observd such as Albatrosses, black and grey Shearwaters1 cheifly setting upon the water. The surface was pretty thickly strewd with the substance that I have before often mentiond under the name of Sea Saw dust; the sea water likewise emitted a strong smell like that of Seaweeds rotting on the shore.

9. Struck soundings today on the Cape Bank,2 the Water on it appeard thick and muddy; many Birds especialy Gannetts3 were seen about the ship. In the Night especialy the fore part of it a very heavy dew fell.

10. In the morn the Water was clear and blue very unlike the muddy complexion it had yesterday. At 10 the Land was seen which provd to be to the Eastward of Cape Das Aguillas:4 it appeard low and sandy near the shore with high land rising behind it inland resembling very some parts of New Holland. In the Evening Cape das Aguilas was not more than 6 Leagues off so that we doubted not at all of being round it before morn, at night fall however the wind came right ahead and threatned a gale.

11. All last night the wind was foul, the Current however assisted us a little. In the morn the water was clear but we saw Gannetts and Albatr[o]sses;5 soon after the wind favourd and we got round Cabo das Aguillas when we had the water again very thick and

1 Both the Pediunker, Adamastor cinereus and the Cape Hen, Procellaria aequinoctialis are common here, and several other species of petrels occur.

2 ‘From Cape Good Hope, along the south coast of Africa to Algoa Bay, a bank of soundings projects out a considerable distance from the land; from Cape Lagullas this bank extends a great way to S.S. Eastward, and is generally called the Cape Bank, or Bank of Lagullas. The southern extremity of the bank is nearly… in longitude 22° E. and is said to extend to about 37½ S. latitude in this part… .’—James Horsburgh, Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies… . Pt I [1809], p. 72.

3 The Cape Gannet is Sula capensis (Lichtenstein).

4 Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.

5 S has a note, ‘Seeing the Birds a sign of being near Land, notwithstanding the water was clear’.

page 247 foul with many birds about the ship. At night were abreast of the high land between Cabo das Aguillas and Cabo Falzo;1 the water was as full of shining insects as we have seen it in the Voyage. In the day several fires were seen ashore.

12. In the morn saw Cape Falso and soon after the Cape of Good Hope off which we observd a rock not laid down in the Charts; the breeze was fresh and fair, it carried us as far as Table Bay off which we anchord. In coming along shore we saw several smoaks upon the next hill before the Lions rump,2 and when at an anchor fires upon the side and near the top of the Table mountain. In the Bay were several ships, 4 French, 2 Danes, 1 English viz. the Admiral Pocoke Indiaman, and several Dutch.

13. Wind so fresh at Se that we could not attempt to go ashore; no boat indeed in the whole Harbour attempted to Stir — the Dutch Commodore Hauld down his broad Pennant a signal for all Boats belonging to him to keep on board. Jno Thomas died.3

14. In the Morn moderate so that the Ship was got under way and steerd into the Harbour to her proper birth. A Dutch boat came on board to enquire from whence we came, and brought with her a Surgeon who examind our Sick and then gave leave for them and us to come ashore, which we accordingly did at Dinner time.

16. Captn Riddle4 Saild this day for England.

17. Dr Solander who had been on board the Indiaman last night was this Morn taken violently ill with a fever and pain in his Bowels. A Countrey Physician5 was immediately sent for, who declard on hearing his Case that it was the common consequence of Batavia fevers, that the Dr would be much worse and would for some time

1 False Cape. The ship was coming towards False Bay, on the eastern side of the Cape peninsula; the Cape of Good Hope thus forms the western point of the entrance to the bay. The corresponding eastern point is Cape Hangklip. This is only 10 feet high, but 1½ miles north of it rises up to 1448 feet the hill known as Hangklip Berg; this was called False Cape and is sometimes still so called.

2 This is one of the hills to the northward of Table Mountain, i.e. on the northern end of the Cape peninsula. On its northwest side Table Mountain at first falls nearly perpendicularly and then slopes steeply to the base of the Lion's Head, a conical hill or mountain of 2193 feet. From the northern side of this, in turn, a rounded ridge stretches north-eastward for about 1½ miles to the Lion's Rump, 1153 feet.

3 There was no John Thomas on board the Endeavour and Banks's date again seems at fault. (Below, at 28 April, he refers to ‘my irregular journal at the Cape’.) Nobody died on 13 March. Richard Thomas, entered at Batavia as A.B., according to Hicks died on 14 March (the last entry in Hicks's journal), and according to the muster books on 21 March.

4 Of the Admiral Pocock, ‘by whome’, says Cook, ‘I sent letters to the Admiralty and Royal Society’.—p. 460.

5 i.e. a physician from on shore.

page 248 suffer very much by his Bowel complaint, but upon the whole he declard that there was no danger. I could not however help being a good deal alarmd in my own opinion.

18. The Houghton Indiaman Captn Smith came into the road.

30. The Duke of Gloucester Indiaman Captn Lauder came into the Road.

31. Dr Solander after having been confind to his Bed or chamber ever since the 17 of this month with an irregularly intermitting fever and violent pains in his bowels, which alarmd me very much at several different times, this day came down stairs for the first time, very much emaciated by his tedious Illness.